Thursday, June 18, 2009

Social Upheaval Through Familiarity

Social networking is good and evil. First, the evil. I shouldn't say evil as much as trivial. There are so many pointless things involved with social networking. The spammer tweeps, the sad people still clinging to Myspace, the Facebookers who constantly become "fans" of things that everyone on the planet is fans of like Sleep, Laughing, and Breathing. "Captain Idiot is a fan of Pizza!"..... (Incidentally, I started a new Facebook group called "Being a fan of things is stupid"- come be a fan!!1!1!!).

But then there is such hope. We are living in a span of time that will forever in history be marked as a huge turning point in transparency and social power. 100 years from now, people will look back at 2008-2009 as the time that this relatively annoying and benign thing known as social networking completely changed the landscape of everything. From Obama's amazing run that was fueled in large part to his campaign's extensive and groundbreaking use of the internet to the present-day events in Iran- where the government is quickly finding out that there is no such thing as suppression of expression anymore. Everyone who has a phone in their hand is a reporter. The youth are ten steps ahead of the government as far as getting around the clampdowns on the internet. I read yesterday that over 70% of Iran's population is under the age of 30. SEVENTY PERCENT! That is change and change coming fast folks.

This is really it and it's very exciting for democratic-minded people. Maybe I'm being naive, but once Friedman's world-flattening finally reaches it's saturation point I have a feeling that a lot of hate will dissipate. Young people everywhere are going to grow up in a world where they can very easily see what others are thinking and feeling....anywhere....all the time. I've long been a believer that familiarity breaks the bonds of ignorance better than anything else. People fear what they don't know. If they are suddenly making global connections on a daily basis with people that no other generation has ever been able to grow up knowing, these barriers are going to start to crumble and fade.

I can equate this with my own experiences growing up as a Navy brat. I lived in Maryland, Delaware, Florida, California, and New York all before the age of 11. I grew up among many different types of people, with tons of different backgrounds. Thanks to my parents not impressing it upon me, I had zero idea what prejudice was all about. That is....until I moved to rural PA in the 5th grade. The hatred....the ignorance...the open contempt for other races was astonishing. It really opened my eyes. I was living in an all-white town where no one grew up with anyone other than the guys and girls that looked just like them. As much as this was distasteful to me, I also had to acknowledge that it really wasn't their fault they were ignorant about these things. They didn't choose to grow up in that one spot all their lives. They were taught things about other races (implicitly or explicitly) that seeped into who they were. It's hard to point the finger at someone for being a bigot if they hardly had a chance to grow up as something else.

I tell this story to underline the hopeful notion that ignorance like this is going to be harder and harder to maintain. And we have these inane, pointless social networking sites to thank. Amazing, eh? I guess you could say I'm a "fan" of social upheaval through familiarity. =) It's a very exciting time for youth in general and democracy in particular. The power is sitting there, waiting to be harnessed for greater things than the flavor of Ashton Kutcher's coffee!!! It's going to be interesting to see how we all get to it and make it work. I truly believe the next era is upon us.

P.S. I also had an idea that someone should run with and make money on- someone needs to catalog and log all of these #iranelection tweets / board posts / other communications and put it together in a book about the first online revolution....